I'm trying to get an engineering post doc which I will conduct at a company's R&D labs, however I need to jump through all of the sponsoring university's hoops. I just received their application form and some of the questions are very personal. I thought such questions would be illegal in any European country. Are questions like your marital status, number and name of your children, date, place of birth...normal? The number of ways a candidate maybe discriminated against based on their responses would be exponential.

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    Is this a public university? That would be strange. – Herman Toothrot Dec 22 '17 at 10:09
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    As a french person, this is not that strange in France, although completely unethical. There is a huge discrimination based on age and perhaps other things too, and you can't do anything about it because it is already deeply "settled". I am disappointed by the country I was born in. – Evariste Dec 22 '17 at 10:53
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    Are you sure it has to do with your post doc? Sounds like immigration check and stay permit. – Alchimista Dec 22 '17 at 12:03
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    I guess they erroneously sent you a form to prepare a contract, not an application. They'll need that information to properly register you with health insurance, tax authorities, etc. – Karl Dec 22 '17 at 17:13
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    My guesstimate (from a German point of view) is also that you got a set of forms for preparing the contract. My advise would be to ask whether you got the right set of forms as this looks to you like forms for preparing the contract rather than forms for the application/candidate selection process. After all, if you got the wrong forms, you may be missing the right ones... (Or, could it be that they already decided to hire you? And in consequence try so speed up burocracy by sending you all forms at once - particularly if two institutions are involved?) – cbeleites unhappy with SX Dec 23 '17 at 16:23

No, it is not "normal". According to the French labor code:

Les informations demandées, sous quelque forme que ce soit, au candidat à un emploi ne peuvent avoir comme finalité que d'apprécier sa capacité à occuper l'emploi proposé ou ses aptitudes professionnelles.

Ces informations doivent présenter un lien direct et nécessaire avec l'emploi proposé ou avec l'évaluation des aptitudes professionnelles.

Translated by myself:

The only purpose of any question asked, under any form, to a candidate for a job must be to evaluate their ability to perform their work duties or to evaluate their professional aptitude.

These questions must have a direct and necessary link with the offered job or with the evaluation of professional aptitude.

It is straight up illegal to ask these question (and it has been since at least 2008). You shouldn't answer them, and provide them a link to the labor code (and perhaps offer to call the labor inspectors to clarify the situation) if they get upset. Your age, your marital status, your possible children have no bearing on your ability to perform your duties as a postdoc (there are some exceptions, postdoc is certainly not one of them).

Now, is it "normal" in the sense that it is the norm? Employment law is unfortunately not the best-respected law around here...

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    Great answer. I wonder what the best way to react is, though. They might take your not answering as a negative sign, and turn down your application because of this ("we don't want people that are too conscious of their rights and may cause legal problems in future"). This is probably even more illegal, I know, but at this point in practice your only solution is a long and uncertain lawsuit. I am not familiar at all with the French legal system, but I would at least consider "answer those questions, then sue them if you don't get the job" as a possible alternative strategy. – Federico Poloni Dec 22 '17 at 9:41
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    @FedericoPoloni It is indeed possible to sue them after the fact. We even have specialized labor courts to deal with this kind of thing. There have been cases where some employer had to pay damages, or offer a job to a wronged applicant. I have been fortunate enough to never requiring to deal with them myself, though... @ OP If you're serious about this, you can call the labor inspectors (inspection du travail) and ask them questions directly, they may be able to answer. – user9646 Dec 22 '17 at 9:50
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    @zibadawatimmy Of course it does apply to foreigners. Applying for a visa is a completely different matter, however. It is my understanding that the procedures for a visa would start only after the candidate is selected for the job. Let me also say that I can only hope that you did not rely on OP's name to determine whether or not they are French (or a EU citizen). – user9646 Dec 22 '17 at 10:39
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    Exactly on this topic: the link posted above by Najib Idrissi includes a section which says that using astrology in the hiring process is not against the law. (!!) – Federico Poloni Dec 22 '17 at 12:32
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    @Droplet That's a very bad idea. Lying during a job application is grounds for the company to unilaterally terminate your contract. They are not going to sue you; they are going to fire you. – user9646 Dec 22 '17 at 12:42

No it is not normal. These question are not posed by an university office in France ( the same probably applies in most of Europe , surely in Italy and Austria as well) as far as professional competence and attitude must be evaluated.

It is likely that the university has provided you with formular emanating from immigration offices, inherent to getting a stay in France as prerequisite or concomitant requisite to obtain a post doc position.

If you are EU citizen than our work laws and workers protecting laws are indeed in danger if not already totally dismantled...

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  • I'm a British Citizen, so for now I don't need a visa (maybe - could change any minute based on the politicians mood these days). The form should have been completed after an offer was made and should not have required my CV! – Saeid Alami Dec 22 '17 at 14:28

When applying to US and UK, I remember answering questions regarding to race, disability etc. Of course, it was mentioned that this information is collected only for ensuring that there is no discrimination (for this, you need statistics), and probably the people deciding who to hire did not see that (I hope). So yes, it seems to be normal that you may be asked some weird questions.

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    What makes you think that your experience in the US and the UK has any relation whatsoever to French employment law? It is written very explicitly in the French labor code that asking these questions is illegal. – user9646 Dec 22 '17 at 9:18
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    Usually, such questions would be clearly marked as optional, and for statistical purposes only. Furthermore, they would be to ensure that certain protected classes of people (e.g. women and racial minorities) are not discriminated against. Marital status and names of children would not be appropriate for such surveys. – 200_success Dec 22 '17 at 18:07
  • I believe those questions are optional in the US. – aparente001 Dec 22 '17 at 22:12

In fact this is normal. In France, public employees can have more money if they have children. Wife and children health care can also be managed by the university.

So university will need all information about your familly. It's not legal to use it to decide to take you or not, but you have to give it if they hire you.

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    They will only need this information after hiring the candidate. – user9646 Dec 22 '17 at 13:01
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    It is correct that family has benefits but I agree with Najib Idrissi. In my case my private situation had not to bee discussed before hiring. – Alchimista Dec 22 '17 at 15:26

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